Telugu students trapped in fake US university case cry foul
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Telugu students trapped in fake US university case cry foul

According to Andhra Pradesh Non-Resident Telugu (APNRT) Society, as many as 27 of 129 Telugu students who were arrested in the case, were released from various detention centres in the US as on Saturday.

india Updated: Feb 12, 2019 13:14 IST
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
According to Andhra Pradesh Non-Resident Telugu (APNRT) Society, as many as 27 of 129 Telugu students who were arrested in the case, were released from various detention centres in the US as on Saturday.(AP/Representative Image)

Students from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, who are on bail in the “pay-to-stay” case in the US, say they were cheated in the alleged fraud played on them by American police in trapping them by floating a fake university to expose an immigration racket.

According to Andhra Pradesh Non-Resident Telugu (APNRT) Society, as many as 27 of 129 Telugu students who were arrested in the case, were released from various detention centres in the US as on Saturday.

“The hearing of the cases is scheduled to be held on Monday and Tuesday and more students are expected to come out,” APNRT spokesperson Sagar Doddapaneni said.

One of the four students, who came out from Arizona State Detention Centre on Friday, said most of the students had enrolled in University of Farmington only because their application for H1B visa had been waiting for approval from the US government.

He said he had completed his masters in electronics in 2016 and started working on Optional Practical Training (OPT) as a software developer and applied for H1B visa.

“It took almost a year to know whether H1B is approved or not and by that time OPT was over. I thought of doing masters in computer science so that I can get benefit from this course for jobs and get the valid status,” he said.

Like him, many students applied to various universities including the University of Farmington. When they contacted the university, they were told that classes were currently full and that no professors were available. They would be informed once the classes are open for enrolment.

However, the university gave them an option. If they had any friend who was studying at the university and who could refer them, they could provide them with admission. That was how they were enrolled into the university through student recruiters, all from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

“We clearly mentioned their H1B was in pending status as we do not want to lose our legal status,” the student said.

He said the students never knew that it was a place that could be used for pay to stay. “Many students got their H1Bs still continue in their university thinking that the classes will start and they can get the degree which will be useful for their career. If students really wanted to stay illegally, they would not have given their genuine addresses and not done their paperwork,” he said.

According to Venkat Kommineni, an Indian American political activist in Arizona who has been assisting Telugu students in the case, the university assured to provide them legal status and also Curricular Practical Training (CPT) internship from day one.

“The students were provided with student portal to login in and when they logged in, no classes were available. The university staff continued to hoodwink the student saying classes would start soon. When some students applied for driver’s license, the university provided the proof of valid student status to the authorities,” he said.

Apparently, the students were given the impression that the college was really big and classes were full at that time. “They were informed that they would be called when classes were available. The students kept waiting to hear back and paying the fee. The only e-mail they got was an invoice e-mail,” he said.

Kommineni, who is working with consulate office and meeting immigration attorneys to secure bail for the students, said students and their relatives were requesting that the Indian government should come to their rescue.

“They want the government to help them by arranging a quick appointment with the judge so that they could come out from detention centres. They also want clear guidance and direction from the authorities on pros-cons of different options,” he said.

The students also want to know whether there was any way they would get another chance to join other universities and continue to work in the US with the approved H1Bs.

“If the students are forced to be deported to India, then the document should not show “misrepresentation” of “ban” on their entry into the US in future,” Kommineni said.

First Published: Feb 12, 2019 13:14 IST